Back in January I wrote Part 1 & Part 2 of this series and there was never going to be a part 3 but there was so much interest in Parts 1 & 2 that at the time it felt like I couldn't complete the series without talking about the Hustle Du Jour which is affiliate marketing.
And the reason it's taken me a while to get around to it is that most of my readership is based in South Africa and we're really under represented in this space. I started to question if it was worth it. So I spent the last 6 weeks researching the subject and I've come to the conclusion that it is more than possible to make a little side hustle out of affiliate marketing if you're in South Africa, it's just a lot tougher than the obvious locations like the grand ol' U.S. of A or my other home country of Great Britain.
Let me start with a simple definition of what affiliate marketing is.
Affiliate marketing is being paid a commision for creating a sale for a company, usually (but not always) by creating content that showcases the product or service therefore creating enough interest in someone to go buy it.
Let me give you a couple of simple examples:
I create a Youtube video reviewing the latest Kindle. I place a link in the video description to the kindle on Amazon. Someone watches the review and based on my amazing review, decides to buy one. They click on my link and buy the kindle. It costs the buyer nothing more but amazon pays me a percentage of the sale value as a commision for generating the sale. The customer gets the reassurance that I've reviewed it (and I'm a tech expert) so their chance of buying a bad product is reduced. Everybody wins.
I'm trying to get my new brand of sneakers off the ground and need to start generating some sales. I pay a famous rap star to wear my sneakers and post pictures of him out doing cool rappery things wearing my sneakers. All of his fans see my sneakers and wanting to have the same style as him, they decide to order my sneakers for themselves. I get lots of orders that outweigh the value of the commision to the rap star, the fans get to be more like their idol. Everybody wins.
Example number one is traditional affiliate marketing and is the most common and the second example is influencer marketing which is becoming as popular as the first. The subtle difference is example one only pays commision on each closed sale whereas in example two the payment is made up front but the number of sales are generated in bulk.
For the purposes of this post, let's just lump them all together and call it Digital Marketing. Technically there's much more to Digital Marketing but stay with me here people.
So what are some good ways to generate some side hustle cash from digital marketing?
1. Product Reviews
I literally don't buy anything of value without reading a bunch of reviews and doing some high level analysis comparing the product I want with it's competition. I hit Google hard for written content, then get onto YouTube for the video content. Then once I'm zeroed in on a product, it's back to Google to see how I can get it at the lowest possible price without waiting ages to get it.
The nice thing with this approach is you can do it from anywhere. Amazon allows anyone in the world to setup an Amazon Affiliates account so all you have to do is position your content to somewhere that Amazon is dominant like the US or UK and you're off to the races.
The key is you have to create great review content that people are engaged by and want to read or watch to the end. You kind of want to be the best review out there. This means you should review what you love and are passionate about. I'm well into cooking and have a cooking gadget arsenal of note. I would probably be great at doing written reviews of the latest air-fryer for example. I have an air fryer, I use it a lot, I know what's good about it and what's not. I could spend a year reviewing every air fryer currently out and market myself as an air fryer expert. If I did it really well, I guess people would start to click my links and buy the air fryers that I say are the best.
Let's assume that air fryer cost R2,250 / $150 / £113 and I have 5000 readers of each review and 5% of them by an air fryer. Thats 250 air fryer sales. Then let's say I get 10% commission from Amazon for the sales. That's R56,250 / $3,750 / £2812 in commision. And then lets say every time a new and better air fryer comes out, I repeat the process and that happens 3 times per year. That's then R168,650 / $11,250 / £8,437 comision for the year in air fryers.
In terms of costs, I clearly need to own the product to do a proper review so I have R2,250 / $150 / £113 initial outlay for my first air fryer (If I don't already own one) and then I need a website. Let's call that $5 per month or R900 / $60 / £45 a year. Then let's say I spend a little money on Facebook and Google ads to drive some viewers to my website. let's call that $20 per month or R2,100 / $140 / £105 per year. All told, our startup costs are R5,250 / $350 / £262 for the first year. If we get just one review to generate the desired 250 sales in the first year, we're in profit by R51,000 / $3,400 / £2,550 still.
Clearly once you have this up and running you can scale up by as much as the time you have to generate reviews. However, apart from the cost of buying the product, your costs are fixed so if you were to run 10 different product reviews that paid 3 times a year, you would generate an income of R792,000 / $52,800 / £39,600 after costs and buying products,. And don't forget you'd have 10 shiny new products!
I've simplified this to make it simple to understand but with a bit of thought and planning, my research tells me my numbers are pretty conservative.
2. YouTube Channels & Product Placement
Don't want do reviews but have a hobby you love and are really good at?
Create your own YouTube channel and showcase the tools / equipment you use or get sponsorship because you have a large group of followers.
When I retired I took up woodworking as a hobby. I watch endless YouTube videos about making furniture or how to use tools better or instructional videos on techniques. Inevitably I see a tool being used or a technique I need a specialised tool for and I decide there and then I have to have it. Most woodworkers on YouTube list all of their tools with the same Amazon affiliate links to the tools they are using and get the same commissions as the examples above.
They're not selling the products per se, they're doing what they love and videoing it, however, they're getting paid by Youtube for the adverts you're forced to watch before the video starts and then they're getting paid by Amazon for including links to the tools so the watcher buys at amazon and not somewhere else. All of that means they're making a pretty good income from videoing themselves doing what they love.
And guess what? If their videos get lots of views, the tool manufacturers sponsor them and give them free tools and pay them even more money for using their tools in their videos of themselves doing what they love. Can you see a pattern forming here.
Now competition is hot in this space as it's so lucrative if you get it right but there's alway room for one more. If you have something you're truly passionate about or have reached expert status in, then you can make it work if you go and learn how to make quality videos that people will watch. And guess what? You can learn that on YouTube!
YouTube has more searches now than Google itself so we are probably still at the beginning of what will be the de facto information resource in a matter of a few years. It takes a lot of time and effort but so far YouTube hasn't deleted any popular videos I'm aware of so if you get a good one, it will continue to pay an income for many years to come. Maybe doesn't seem like so much effort when you think like that. It's hard to get good quality financials on YouTube but I did read somewhere (so take this with a pinch of salt) that if you can get a Youtube channel with 1m followers and have an average of 1m video views per month, you can achieve a R15m / $1m / £750k annual salary. Now if that isn't an incentive, I don't know what is.
I however, am told I have a good face for radio so will be sticking with good old fashioned blogging.
3. Blogging & Referral Marketing
As a blogger myself I can tell you that of all the examples in this post, blogging is the one that pays out last!
It takes several years of producing good content to start making money but it is possible and when you get there (which I'm not yet) I'm reliably informed you can make a good salary. I do know one financial blogger who makes $100,000 a month from her blog. But it is a 24x7 job that she decided to do to reach FIRE in record time and then kind of ramped it down and went to live in a van but still makes a great living.
You have to be really obsessed with something to write about it continuously without repetition or just becoming boring. Fortunately I'm obsessed with telling the whole world they don't need to work past 40 if they get their priorities right before they're 30 so that is my inspiration and motivation. I'm also becoming a personal finance nerd and have been obsessed with how to make money since I could walk so I'm a bit of a poster boy for blogging even if my content could always be better (that is a journey). My only sibling and sister is also a famous screenwriter and is something important to do with the British Writers Guild so I think my love for writing may be hereditary.
So let's assume you're obsessed. How do you make money out of writing about your obsession?
So first and most simple is advertising. You will have noticed the odd block on this page with probably an advert about something you were talking about the other day or a product you looked at on a website but didn't buy or simply something related to this blog post. That is the mighty Google beavering away on behalf of its customers doing affiliate marketing on a gargantuan scale. I rent them a few windows to show their wares and if one of you clicks or buys or just looks at it long enough, I get a teeny-weeny bit of money. Unfortunately for me, my posts have not yet generated millions of views so it is a teeny weeny amount of teeny weeny payments, so we'll move on swiftly.
The next thing is referrals. Which is similar to the processes above. Every so often I find a website or an investment or something else that rocks my world and I become a member and throw lots of my hard earned cash at it and then I evangelise about it on Tribal Fi. That "Thing" may or may not have a referral program where if you decide to have look at the "Thing" and click the link on my site, the website of the thing knows you came from me and pays me a thank you payment or a discount off my subscription or something similar. That has the potential to generate some good income. Not YouTube money but a small but effective salary.
And then when you're super well known and popular in blogging you can make the big bucks from being paid to write content for other websites as a guest contributor or even on a particular subject on your own site which can be extremely lucrative.
In terms of achievable earnings, it is not unreasonable to be able to make a salary in excess of $100,000 per year from a successful blog. Also there is the prospect of selling it. Popular blogs have sold with values of up to $10m and beyond because eventually it sort of stops being a blog and becomes a community or club like a giant Facebook group for instance (without Facebook).
So while blogging is firmly in the same vein as starving artists, if you're one of the few who can do it really well and can stick at it and build a loyal community around it, you can make a very good living.
There is one important element to me on this whole post though, and that is integrity.
I don't recommend a product because it has a referral program and I only recommend things I'm a customer of / investor in. I think that applies across the last two examples. If your only interest is to make money, go down the product review route and be a digital marketeer, you'll do well if you're focussed and ambitious.
If however you want to have a side hustle where money is a byproduct of doing something you love, then I strongly recommend that you take a look in the mirror and if you're good looking charming and funny with a razor sharp wit, get yourself a Youtube channel. If you're ugly, fat and a middle aged geek with a cynical outlook on life and an inherent distrust of everything, You're my kind of guy / gal and I'll see you in the blogosphere!
And that brings my side hustle series to a close. Having been doing it for a while now, I can't help feeling some of it has been a bit obvious but I also know that when I was on my FIRE journey I was desperate to consume content around starting a side hustle and I hope this might just help someone get started on something that makes them even more wealthy.
I think having started my own side hustle less than a year ago from nothing and just done my tax return with over R2m / $133,000 / £100,000 in revenue and R1m / $66,000 / £50,000 in profit I guess if I had to give my 3 key words of advice they would be:
Do what you love or leverage your expertise. I started leveraging my expertise and I'm using the income from that to build my next hustle doing what I love. It doesn't feel like work and you choose what you do. You're the boss and if you don't want to do it, you don't.
Don't be afraid of the paperwork. I believe this is probably the biggest cause of failure. In the last year I've registered my company, got a bank account, got a tax number, got G-suite, set up Google Ads, setup company Gmail, Got a website, set up a credit card payment provider for my website, setup international Forex accounts so clients can pay me in dollars / sterling, setup invoicing, appointed an accountant, done a tax return, registered for VAT, I'm about to do a VAT return, I got myself an import/export license. I got companies to do 90% of the work for me. Companies like Govchain and Taxtim and Osidon. They do all of this for me and they're experts at it. Yes I had to pay them but in total including my monthly fee to my accountant I've spent less than R50,000 and I make that in two days of consulting. Don't let the paperwork scare you
Get your name out there and the work will find you. You can't get much more niche than what I do but I'm a fairly likeable chap with a good reputation and my mum taught me good manners. I setup a website, went on linkedin, announced to the world I was starting my own business, put a signature on my email, paid for a bit of google advertising and wrote a couple of white papers on subjects I know about and proactively followed up on any and every opportunity that presented itself with gusto. The paying customers found me. it doesn't matter what you do, from an online lemonade stand to forensic science, tell the world you're working for yourself, and be clear about what you have to offer and someone will tell someone who'll tell someone who needs your service and they will find you. Then that customer tells someone else that needs your service and it grows. I don't like selling, I'm introverted and I'm socially awkward with strangers. But I can talk passionately and with authority about what I know and I know a damn sight more about the subject than my customers, that is why they hire me.
Most importantly just do it. You'll wish you did it years ago. Or you'll fail completely and have to try something else, but you will have learned and that's better than having never tried and never knowing.
Until next time, keep hustling